Sunday, March 22, 2009

Who Designs This Stuff?


Any time I can't come up with something earth-shattering to blog about, or don't have a convenient event occur that sparks a litany of thoughts worthy of sharing, I go shopping. I know. With the economy and all, it's not exactly the PC thing to do just to grease my rusty writer's gears, but I think of it as doing my part to help the American economy.

Also, it never fails to provide me with at least one wow-would-you-look-at-that moment. Like today. I went to Marshall's looking for a new throw for my living room sofa. I needed something light and springy after this interminable northeast winter that started back in October.

While I'm waiting in line at the check-out counter, I spot this display of nylon canvas bags on wheels. This certainly must be a gift unique to women: the ability to immediately zone in on the newest item in a store, no matter how much it's surrounded by sale signs and mini bags of Jelly Bellies. I'm looking at these things, which it turns out are called "shopper bags on wheels," and what caught my attention was how fashionable they were. You had your array of bright colors; a little design motif on the flap. Everything that the well-dressed bag lady could want. And then it hit me: these things are marketed to ME. The woman who has to haul fifty pound plastic grocery bags about 100 feet between my car and the front door of my condo then up two flights of stairs. The woman who no longer has the muscular strength of Xena, Warrior Princess. The woman who would like a little mechanical help in the bag-carrying department, but wants to be stylish as well as practical.

Even though I thought these were pretty nifty contraptions--especially for only $19.99--a tiny part of me seethed. How dare these manufacturer's appeal to my anxiety about loss of muscle tone, higher incidences of hip fractures from falling, and pure feebleness? Then I began thinking about how designers, in general, seem to hit a blank wall when women turn forty and don't pick up the ball again until we're well into our 70s. They just don't know what to do with us! Are we crumbling at the knees, or are we marathon runners? Do we still want to flaunt our sensuality, or are do we fear being labeled "cougars?" Can we handle sexy little thongs, or are we ready for granny panties?

Truthfully, it's a little confusing to us, too. There are days I feel OK raiding my 26-year-old daughter's closet, and there are days I want to look as pulled together as Michelle Obama. I want a high heeled, calf-hugging boot to slog through the winter slush in style, but I also want a super-resilient, ultra-waterproof muckluc that looks like something designed by Big Foot. I want jeans that fit like a glove, but have plenty of lycra to give around my not-so-slim parts.

There are some products out there, however, that deserve a huge round of applause for being tuned-in to middle aged women and their schizophrenic needs at a very twisted-mind time of life. L'Oreal's Root Touch-Up for instance. This is such a ludirously "duh!" product, I can only imagine that it wasn't developed sooner because there are fierce salon lobbyists that fought against the introduction of miniature hair coloring products. My hat's off also to Replens. After two unsuccessful attempts to get a prescription for a low estrogen product that would save my withering vah-jay-jay for under $150--I'm not kidding--I did a little research, and discovered Replens, which is touted as a "bio-adhesive." It's kind of messy, but it works, and only $20 for a tube. Although I've never bought a pair, Spanx certainly tops the list of brilliant, practical, why-didn't-I-think-of-that marvels of design for reining in midlife spread. I can also personally vouch for Estee Lauder's Brush-On Undereye Illuminator. It's not cheap--about $30--but it lasts almost a year, and I've never, ever, ever, found another product that works as well at hiding my queen of the damned undereye circles without getting cakey, crackly, or vanishing altogether. Love it!

How about you? Use a product that you swear by for your over-forty body, face, life?

Chocolate doesn't count. Chocolate, afterall, was invented by God because she knew no man would ever think up a product that made us crave it, lust for it, and be satisified by it more than him.